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PODIUM PATHWAYS – Analysing the medal chances of Irish boxers following tough draw

As always, please do not share or tag the boxers in this piece as they approach every tournament with a one punch, one round, one fight at a time mentality.

The Olympic boxing draw has not been particularly kind to Ireland.

Perhaps not mentioned enough, the draw plays a huge part in determining a fighter’s Olympics. Seedings are imperfect and boxers that most would say are in the Top 4 in a weight class often go home empty handed.

Unfair? Probably, but it’s the way it is and the seven Irish boxers in Tokyo will all still dream tonight of reaching the podium regardless of what the Swiss Timing computer determined this morning.

Below goes through each boxer and looks at their likely path to the podium in Japan (all times Irish time).

Men’s Flyweight
Brendan Irvine
First Fight – 4:00am Monday 26th
The Team Captain starts in the Round of 32 of one of the most stacked divisions against Carlo Paalam. The Filipino is a 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist but it is a winnable fight for the Belfast boxer. Then things start to get really tough – with veteran Algerian Mohammed Flissi awaiting in the Last 16. The African has seven major medals and will be attending his third Olympics. It won’t get any easier either, with reigning Olympic champ, and the man who defeated Irvine in Rio, Uzbekistani Shakhobidin Zoirov the likeliest opponent in the bronze medal bout.

Men’s Featherweight
Kurt Walker
First Fight – 4:00am Saturday 24th

The Lisburn stylist has been given a stinker of a draw. He starts i
n the Round of 32 against Spaniard Jose Quiles Brotons, a bronze medallist at the 2017 Euros. Then there is the formidable challenge of Uzbekistan’s gold medal favourite and reigning world champion Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov. Scale this mountain and it could be Kazakh Serik Temirzhanov, American Duke Ragan, or France’s Samuel Kistohurry for a medal.

Women’s Featherweight
Michaela Walsh
First Fight – 6:30am Monday 26th
Another awful draw, the Belfast boxer sees no benefit come from her status as a seed. In the Last 16 she will face either Irma Testa – who she has traded wins with this year – or Russian Liudmilla Vorontsova – who beat her in the 2019 Worlds. If she can claim a big win, Walsh then has Canadian veteran Caroline Veyre or Cuban-born America Yasirel Ramirez for a medal.

Women’s Lightweight
Kellie Harrington
First Fight – 3:00am Friday 30th
The Dubliner has a good draw. First up in the Last 16 it will either be Italian Rebecca Nicoli – whom Amy Broadhurst beat in the 2019 European U22 final – or Mexico’s Panamerican Games bronze medallist Esmeralda Falcón. Then, for a medal, it would likely be Algerian Imane Khelif – who has no major international medals bar winning the African Qualifier last year. Moving very deep into the tournament, potential semi-final opponents include British wonderkid Caroline Dubois, Thai World Championships final opponent Sudaporn Seesondee, and top American Rashida Ellis. Make it to the final and it could be Brazilian world champ Beatriz Ferreira or old rival Mira Potkonen among others.

Men’s Welterweight
Aidan Walsh
First Fight – 3:30am Tuesday 27th
The Belfast boxer has received the dream draw. Handed a bye into the Last 16, he will face either Eswatini’s Thabiso Dlamini and Cameroonian Albert Mengue Ayissi. Win this and he has a shoot-out for a medal against either Jordanian starlet Zeyad Eshaish or Canandian Wyatt Sanford, neither established international medal-winners.

Women’s Middleweight
Aoife O’Rourke
First Fight – 10:15am Wednesday 28th
The Castlerea fighter has a tough but not impossible road to the podium. Straight into Last 16, O’Rourke starts against China’s Li Qian, a bronze medallist at Rio, the 2018 World Champion, and 2019 Asian champion. If the rapidly improving Roscommon boxer can catch the 31-year-old on the hop then it will be a medal bout most likely against Indian veteran Pooja Rani – who won the 2021 Asian Championships in Qian’s absence.

Men’s Light Heavyweight
Emmet Brennan
First Fight – 12:45pm Sunday 25th
Fantastic that he is even at the Olympics, the Dubliner hasn’t been done any favours in the draw. In the Round of 32 he is matched with Uzbekistan’s Dilshodbek Ruzmetov – a silver medallist at the last World Championships and the reigning Asian champ. Shock the world here and he will have to do it again in the Last 16 versus Cuban-Azeri Loren Alfonso – the reigning European champ. If Brennan can do the near-impossible, his medal fight would actually be quite a nice one – probably being Turk Bayram Malkan who qualified for the Games via the rankings route.

You can see the full draw and schedule HERE

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: